There’s a bogus belief that exists in the minds of nearly everyone who works in nonprofit. It’s unfortunate, because it causes a lot of problems.
I call it the Myth of Boards. And it goes like this:
“People who sit on nonprofit Boards know how to be good Board members and they know how to help with fundraising.”
Think about it: how many times have you been frustrated with your Board because they won’t do their job? They won’t help get sponsors. They won’t open. They don’t seem to want to make eye contact with you when you start talking about fundraising. You know what I’m talking about.
I believe that the more you understand, the more you can do something about it. So, let me tell you what’s really going on here.
People who say “yes” to serving on your Board are good-hearted people, and they probably love your mission. In fact, they probably said “yes” because they want to help and they want to make a difference.
Unfortunately, they probably don’t know squat about serving on a Board.
Without any education, they will gravitate to whatever looks familiar, easy, or fun. That’s why some want to talk about the napkin color for the upcoming gala, and others want to micromanage. They’re operating in a vacuum of knowledge.
Want to fix it? It’s pretty simple really. Teach them.
There’s no Board police to step in and show them what to do, so if you want your Board to be different, you need to step in and give them the tools they need to do their job.
Teach them their basic roles and responsibilities. Explain fundraising to them in some simple terms that they can grasp. Show them you’re there to support them to be successful.
I know you may be annoyed at the thought of training your Board, but what’s the alternative? You can keep doing what you’ve been doing, but you’ll get what you always got. If you want something different, you must DO something different.
I’ll be talking more about this on a free webinar I’m leading on Tuesday, May 21st called “The Three Reasons Why Your Board Disappoints You (and How to Fix It).” You can register at http://getfullyfunded.com/disappointed-by-your-nonprofit-board/.
I’m convinced that if you want to help more people, you need to raise more money. And to do that, you need your Board to help. Join me for this webinar and I’ll show you how to get started with that.
“How do you build relationships with donors when you have to juggle everything else involved with fundraising (appeals, events, communications, data entry, etc.)?”
That’s a great question, and it’s one I’ve heard many times.
I know about being in the tiny shop. Many times, I was “IT” – the fundraiser, resource development girl, data entry person, volunteer coordinator, media relations person, event coordinator, grantwriter, and whatever else needed to be done. It’s not easy. And everything doesn’t always get done. Yet, I was able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in a 1-person fundraising shop.
Prioritize and Act
The first thing you have to do is to prioritize. Ask yourself “What’s the MOST important thing that has to get done today?” Do it first. When it’s done, ask yourself “What’s the NEXT MOST important thing that has to get done today?” Repeat until you’re out of tasks or out of time.
Top priority activities include anything that generates money, builds relationships, spreads the word about your nonprofit organization, or brings some other resource to the table. When you evaluate your to-do list, get honest with yourself about what really needs attention because not everything does.
Once you decide what your top priority is, focus on that task until it’s complete. I recommend closing email, and maybe even turning off your phone to give yourself the quiet time you need to concentrate. Email, phone calls, and texts are interruptions that will cause everything to take up to 100 times longer to complete, and who has time for that? You’ll survive a few minutes or even a couple of hours without email and your phone.
I also recommend that you find ways to systematize everything possible in your office, to make the work flow smoother and quicker. You may even be able to automate a few things, to take advantage of the technology you have. In the Get Fully Funded system, I show you how to create systems and get help that supports you in your work. If you don’t yet have the Get Fully Funded system, you’ll find it here. There’s even a link for a Sneak Preview–you can download the entire first chapter for free to sample the material!
Be careful not to make a mountain out of a molehill in your mind about building donor relationships. Building a relationship on purpose really doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult, yet a lot of people get nervous about it, mostly because they haven’t done much of it before. It doesn’t need to be complicated or take a lot of time to get to know your donors and what they’re interested in. I recommend you start with your top 10 individual donors, and create a plan for starting those relationships over the 3 months. That means you only need to reach out to 3 people during the first month. Add 3 more the next month, then 4 in the 3rd month, and you’ll have all 10 at some point in a relationship-building process.
Also keep in mind, that building a relationship with a donor isn’t manipulative. You are simply getting to know a donor on behalf of your organization, with the goal of partnering with them to serve more people through your nonprofit’s mission. That’s all. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated.
Finally, remember that if you’re only able to get started with 10 relationships this year, that’s 10 more than you had, and if even half of those people decide to give you a larger gift, you’re better off and your nonprofit will reap the rewards.
If you’ve been raising money for any length of time, you know that it’s not always the easiest job. In fact, sometimes, it can be downright hard.
Let me tell you about a conversation I had recently with a client.
This woman is a smart, educated, professional Executive Director of a rather large nonprofit. She’s fairly new in the job, and as you can imagine, she’s still coming up to speed on the organization’s programs, and getting to know the staff and Board. She’s also spending some time visiting with some of the organization’s donors.
From our previous coaching sessions, I know she cares about the mission and deeply wants to serve the people of the community. Raising money is high on the priority list, yet she’s having trouble actually asking for a gift.
“I don’t mind asking someone to volunteer or to help with an event,” she said to me. “But asking for money intimidates me.”
I’m not surprised. Money has a lot of emotional and psychological baggage associated with it. The minute we start talking with a donor about money, all that crap we carry around from our past experiences comes up and gets in our way.
I find that resistance to asking for money often stems from mindset.
Mindset is your way of thinking and looking at the world. If you have a negative mindset about money or wealth, you’re likely to have a tough time asking for donations, especially large ones.
Your current mindset is a result of a lifetime of programming. Your mind interprets every experience you had throughout your life and uses it to shape your views on things. Think about this: when you were little, if there was a fight every time money was discussed in your home, you may well have some fear around talking about money. And if you were like me and your parents said snotty things about people who appeared to have money, you may have some negative mindset about “rich” people (which took me a long time to work through and clear up).
All of this stuff gets in our way as fundraisers.
So, back to my client. As we talked, it became clear that there were mindset issues at play for her and they were holding her back. With a bit of coaching and some personal work on her part, she’s well on her way to overcoming these obstacles. By identifying what’s holding her back and changing her mindset, she can be about the business of raising big money to change lives in her community.
Now it’s your turn to identify your mindset issues. What’s holding you back? Do you ever find yourself thinking or saying any of these?
- “I can’t hit up my friends for money”
- “Our cause isn’t cute. We don’t have puppies and kittens like the animal shelter.”
- “We’re just a small nonprofit”
- ”I’m not good at fundraising”
- “Fundraising is so competitive with all the nonprofits out there”
These are all signs of negative mindset. The good news is that they can all be overcome.
It’s time to stop raising money for your annual fund.
Yep, you read that right.
It’s time to stop thinking about one year at a time. Stop thinking about raising money to keep the lights on. Ditch the annual fund.
The problem with an annual fund is that it’s all about you. The focus is on your light bill, your payroll, your needs.
That’s some pretty small thinking. And it will keep you raising small amounts of money.
Think about it. Every year, you raise the money you need to fund your mission. You probably slide in right at goal without much room to spare. Then you start all over the next fiscal year.
It’s boring to your donors.
It’s exhausting for you.
It can feel like being trapped inside a box with no way out.
So change it.
You don’t have to stay in the box unless you want to.
If you want to get fully funded and raise all the money your nonprofit needs to fulfill its mission, it’s time to think differently.
It’s time to stop thinking about what your nonprofit needs (your annual fund) and start thinking about what your donors are interested in. It’s time to move from ego-centric fundraising to donor-based fundraising.
Donor-based fundraising is about your donors and what they’re interested in. It requires you to communicate with them instead of talking at them.
It requires you to think about and talk about your programs differently than you have before. You’ll need to tell stories about people whose lives have been changed. Talk about the impact of your nonprofit in the community.
Think of your nonprofit in terms of areas your donors can get excited about:
- What are the specific quantifiable programs or projects you have going on that you can clearly describe?
- Who is being served by the program/project?
- How are lives changed?
- Most importantly, what does it cost to run that program/project?
When you can talk to donors about the program or project they are most excited about, you’ll find fundraising gets easier and donors will give more. It makes sense that they’ll support the thing they’re most interested in, doesn’t it?
Nonprofits don’t have needs. The people you serve have needs.
So stop focusing on your need to pay the bills, and start focusing on the lives you’re changing. And raise money for that!
Need some inspiration? Check out this awesome video from The Restoration House, a non-profit in Knoxville, Tennessee. TRH helps to restore single mothers and their children back to God’s good intent for their lives.
The stereotypical view of single mothers often miss the mark. Have your perceptions shattered through this powerful look through the eyes of the single moms, children, mentors, and staff of The Restoration House.
Want more practical tips and ideas for successful fundraising? Get the twice-monthly “Bright Ideas for Fundraising” by clicking here.
Sandy Rees is a nonprofit fundraising coach and speaker who shows small nonprofit organizations how to raise more money, gain more supporters, and strengthen their Boards.
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So the big question is, “How do you get your Board members to help with fundraising?”
A recent report presented by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative found that 60% of nonprofit organizations that engaged their Board in their fundraising efforts reached their fundraising goal for the year.
Here are some simple, yet empowering, ways Board members can become more involved in the fundraising process:
- Allowing the use of their name in solicitation and on marketing materials. Sending appeal letters and thank you notes signed by Board members is a great way to get them excited about the outcome of a campaign and connect with donors.
- Chairing fundraising events. Make sure the event is one that they want they are passionate about and will want to be a part of.
- Helping develop the fundraising plan. Get the Board’s opinion and ideas as you begin your planning process to give them a sense of ownership and responsibility. Plus, you may get some wonderful new ideas and generate more excitement than if they were just told what you are doing.
- Hosting a fundraising event. House parties, private dinners, football tailgating and wine tastings are all simple gatherings that Board members can host in their own home. This type of event won’t take up a lot of staff time or resources because your board member will invite their close friends and colleagues, current donors and prospects! Brainstorm creative events so every Board member can raise money for your organization.
- Making personal introductions to potential donors. Many Board members are a little intimidated by actually asking for money. But they can be part of the process by inviting you (or another Board member that is comfortable soliciting donations) to meet with a potential donor. Better yet, the Board member can join you and the prospect for lunch to make the introduction in person and help drive the conversation.
- Securing sponsorships from companies. This is where many Board members can shine. By utilizing their current business contacts they can bring in sponsorships, matching gifts, auction items and wish list items for your organization.
- Seeking contributions from friends and companies. It seems like a simple request from a Board member, but remember that some Board members may be uncomfortable with the idea of asking their friends for money. Be respectful of their feelings while giving them everything they need to make the Ask. It is important they do something to help you grow your donor database and raise money (like sharing their contact list), but don’t push them to the point that they feel guilty for not doing more (I’ve seen it happen and it can lead to a hostile environment.)
- Thanking donors. This is one of the easiest, and most fun, ways for Board members to become involved in the fundraising process. Whether it’s writing thank you notes or making thank you calls, talking to donors is rewarding and reinforces why they joined the Board in the first place.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to get your Board engaged in the fundraising process. But you have to remember that great Boards and engaged Board members don’t just happen. They are created, empowered, educated, supported and nurtured. And that’s your responsibility.
To read the full report, click here to download.
- Nonprofit Board Recruitment: The Top 3 Mistakes Made in Recruiting New Board Members
- Why some Board members are better at fundraising than others
- Tips to engage your Board in fundraising
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Everyone wants a fantastic Board.
We want a supportive, enthusiastic Board that is passionate about the organization’s mission and is eager to help in any way they can. We want people who are well-connected in the community and are willing to tap into those connections to bring new donors and supporters to us. Sound like the Board of your dreams?
I believe that all Boards have great potential. And all Boards have problems. If you really want to find the root of many problems on your Board, take a hard look at the way you recruit new members.
Recruiting new Board members is something that takes time and effort. You’ll get the best results when you use a system to identify and engage carefully-chosen prospects. You don’t necessarily want “the usual suspects” that everyone else is trying to get. What you want on your Board depends on where your organization is right now and where you want to go.
After working with dozens of Boards, here are the top three mistakes I’ve seen in recruiting new Board members.
Board recruitment mistake #1: Waiting until the last minute. Nothing great was ever accomplished by waiting until time is almost up. Too many nonprofit Boards start a recruitment conversation in May when they need new members in June. They get desperate and settle for “warm bodies” instead of going after people who can bring much-needed skills and talents to the Board.
Instead of being a “Last Minute Lucy,” start at least 6 months before you need new Board members in place. Create and work through a process of identifying the right people to add to your Board. When you have plenty of time, you can have meaningful conversations with prospects and give them adequate time to think over joining your Board. When you’re in a rush, people will tend to say “no.”
Board recruitment mistake #2: Not setting clear expectations. Here’s the old ‘bait and switch’ routine. When you’re desperate to get someone to say yes, you may minimize the seriousness of the job or downplay what is expected of your Board. You may say things like “you don’t have to do anything, just show up for a meeting every now and again.” Then later, you may get resentful because your Board doesn’t actually do anything. Hello! You set yourself up for failure when you don’t give people cleae expectations!
Instead of trying to make it sound too easy to sit on your Board, put a Job Description together (in writing) and give the potential Board member a copy of it. That gives them an idea of what they’re saying “yes” to and they can make a better decision about joining your Board. In that Job Description, be sure to include what is expected of the Board member, and what the Board member can expect from the oganization. Clear expectations pave the way for a good Board experience and prevent uncomfortable situations down the road.
Board recruitment mistake #3: Recruiting people just for their name. It’s tempting to go after people just to add their name to your Board list. Usually it’s the well-known Philanthropists in town that everyone wants. After all, they have the money, the influence, and the connections, right? The problem is that they’re probably on lots of other Boards and not deeply commited to many of them. How can you really be a leader (and that’s what a Board member is!) of lots of nonprofits at once?
Instead of recruiting “the usual suspects” talk to people who are passionate about your organization’s mission and really want to help. Look to your current donor base and your current volunteer pool for people who have the skills and talents you need, and are willing to bring those skills and talents to the table.
Want more help building the Board of your dreams? Join me on March 1 for an affordable new webinar called “Get Your Board on Board.” In just 90 minutes, your Board members will get practical information about how to be great Board members. Got to http://www.getfullyfunded.com/boardleaders to read more and sign up.
You know what I’m talking about.
There are Board members, and there are Board members. Some Board members are gems. They’re helpful, they’re pleasant, and they’re productive. They’ll bring friends to events or for a tour of your facility, and they’ll help in any way they can.
Then there are those Board members who barely return an email or a phone call. You probably have some of them on your Board right now.
Do you know what makes the difference in a nonprofit Board?
Productive, happy Board members are committed to the mission of the organization, and they feel connected. They see themselves as part of the team. They enjoy hearing the stories from the front lines, and often, they’re a dependable volunteer.
Disengaged Board members, on the other hand, sit in a Board meeting playing games on their phone (I almost SMACKED a man one time for spending the whole Board meeting on Facebook!). Typically, they don’t even show up, using one excuse after another.
So the question is this: How do you engage your Board members and keep them engaged?
It’s about knowing what’s important to the individual. One size does not fit all. ou need to get to know your Board members. Think of them as Major Donors. What would you do to get to know a Major Donor? Find out what they like doing and what sets their heart on fire about the organization. Give them specific tasks to do and support them to be successful.
You’ll be much happier in the long run!
Want more help to build a great Board? Check out my upcoming Board webinar called “Get Your Board on Board.” It’s designed to help Board members at small nonprofits learn what their job is and get excited to do it! Get all the details at http://getfullyfunded.com/boardleaders/.
- Nonprofit Board Recruitment: The Top 3 Mistakes Made in Recruiting New Board Members
- Why some Board members are better at fundraising than others
- Tips to engage your Board in fundraising
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I was in Florida this past weekend, speaking at the Friends of Florida State Parks, and I got to enjoy a little time on the beach. I LOVE the beach and I could sit and watch the waves for hours.
I was thinking about how much fun it would be if a magic lamp washed up with a genie inside to grant me 3 wishes for the nonprofit world this year. There are so many things I’d want for you, but here’s what’s at the top of my list:
- Ditch any stinkin’ thinkin’ you might have. Way too many people suffer from a negative mindset when it comes to money and fundraising. They hang on to thoughts like “we can’t raise big money because of the economy” or “we’re just a small nonprofit and no one will give us a big gift.” That kind of thinking holds you back and gives you an excuse to not have to stretch yourself and work toward bigger goals. When you can think BIG, you can accomplish BIG things! And with so many people out there depending on you, thinking BIG would be a good thing.
- Learn to tell your story in a heart-grabbing way. How many words does it take for you to say what your organization does? What if you left out all the jargon, the acronyms, and the industry slang and found a way to describe your organization’s work in language that a 6-year old child could understand? I think it would be a tremendous exercise for you and I think you’d find that it would attract more donors and prospects. Being able to tell your story simply is a key skill for any professional fundraiser!
- Focus on making friends, not getting gifts. Life in your world would change DRAMATICALLY if you focused on developing friendships instead of just getting money in the door. Friends will be there for the long haul and will support your dreams. They care about your success, and they’re there for you when things aren’t going so well. People who give you money aren’t necessarily friends and they won’t necessarily give again. See the difference?
You know what? You don’t need a genie to make these happen. You have the power yourself to shift your mindset, tell your story, and make friends to make 2013 YOUR year!
If there’s a mantra we need to adopt for 2013 it’s “Save the Donors!”
Donor Retention rates are getting worse, even as fundraising increased slightly, according to the 2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute (www.afpnet.org/FEP).
A few years ago, we knew that out of 100 donors, we would lose about 35% of them due to moving away, passing away, or simply going away. Most donors become disinterested in the work our organization is doing and decide that another nonprofit is more worthy of their gift. The report from AFP shows that for every 100 donors, we’re losing 107 for a net loss.
Folks, this is BAD news!
Professional fundraisers MUST wake up and spend more time building relationships, stewarding gifts, and helping donors feel special. We can no longer afford to take donors for granted. A donor is way more important than the check she writes. You need her around for the long haul, not just for this year’s annual fund.
I believe the answer is in communication.
In my own experience as a donor, there are few organizations that communicate with me in a warm, friendly way. A couple of my favorite nonprofits send me stuff that makes me feel like an outsider, which doesn’t exactly make me want to send another gift. If someone were to actually visit me and talk to me about what’s important, who knows how much I might give! But no one has ever bothered to take the time.
How many donors do you have who feel that same way?
Probably more than you want to know.
It’s time to get serious about keeping our donors.
Try this: instead of thinking of them as donors, think of them as friends. How would you talk to a friend? How often would you reach out to your friend?
What are the steps you need to take to develop a friendship? Make a list. Chances are good that they aren’t that different than what you need to do to build a relationship with a donor.
Don’t let these friendships that are vital to your organization languish.
It’s January and that means it’s a fresh year full of possibilities!
If you haven’t started planning yet, you’re already late (2013 will slip away from you before you know what’s happening!). Planning doesn’t have to be hard or take a lot of time, but it does require some serious thought. Carve out a little time to at least get the basics, if not all the detail for your coming year.
Remember that having a well-thought-out plan will move you from being reactive to being proactive, which will lessen your stress and make you more productive. And don’t we all want that?:
So, grab a pen and paper and ponder these 7 questions
1. How much money do we need to raise? You need a specific goal for your plan. If you just want to “raise more money” you’re setting yourself up for failure. After all, how much is more money? $1 more? $100 more? $1,000,000 more?
2. Where will the money come from? You need a mix of revenue streams to ensure the health of your organization. Will you raise money from individuals? Foundations? Events? Don’t set a goal without knowing where you will raise the money. And don’t try to raise all the money from just one source. If all your revenue comes from one grant or one special event, you’re flirting with disaster. If something happens to that one revenue stream, you’ll find yourself struggling to keep the doors open.
3. Who will we ask? Be specific. Who will you ask for money? Create lists of potential donors to ask. Don’t expect the community at large to support you (it won’t happen). You need to target current donors, lapsed donors, and warm prospects. Cold calling doesn’t work too well in fundraising and it’s no fun, plus we all hate it, so don’t go there.
4. When will we ask? Create a calendar of when you will ask. Include grant deadlines, events, etc. to get a complete picture of your year. You’ll be so glad you did this!
5. How much will we ask for? You need to think through the amount you will request from each donor. You may have to do a little research in some cases to find out how much is appropriate, particularly if you’re working with major givers. I suggest you tie it to something tangible if possible. For example, how much does it cost to provide service to someone? What does it cost to provide a meal or a night’s lodging? What does it cost to spay or neuter an animal? When you can ask someone for a gift that means something, they’ll be more likely to say “yes.”
6. How will we follow up on a gift? You need to know how you will thank your donors, how you will steward gifts, and how you will build relationships. You want to have this all thought-out in advance. This is NOT the time to cut corners or be reactive.
7. How soon will we ask again? Don’t be afraid to ask several times during the year for a gift. If you only ask once during the year, I promise you that you are leaving money on the table! If you are doing a good job building relationships with your donors, they WANT to support the work you are doing. Make it easy for them by giving them multiple opportunities to give.
Want more help putting a plan together? Visit www.GetFullyFunded.com/FreeGiftFromSandy to download a free ebook with some of my favorite planning worksheets.